Riot Games announced John Needham as the company’s new Global Head of League of Legends Esports earlier today.
“John’s global experience, track record with our regional esports leagues, and true passion for gaming will accelerate the evolution of League of Legends into one of the leading sports and entertainment properties in the world,” Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent said.
As Riot’s esports aspirations continue to grow, Laurent continued, they are moving three of their “proven leaders” to the esports division so that they can accomplish even bigger things in the industry. This includes giving Riot’s former co-heads of esports, Jarred Kennedy and Whalen Rozelle, new leadership positions as well.
Kennedy will now lead a division focused on building and operating new businesses for Riot Games. He will also assume responsibility for Riot’s strategic partnerships. Meanwhile, Whalen will now be leading new esports initiatves across the organization.
“LoL is an esports phenomenon, thanks in large part to the leadership, drive, and vision of Jarred and Whalen, and we’re now confident that we are well on our way to becoming a multi-decade, multi-generational sport. We plan to provide our players, teams, partners, and fans with even more high-impact, amazing League of Legends experiences,” Laurent said.
Throughout their time at Riot, the pair has helped expand esports to include 13 professional leagues around the world. This number most notably includes the LCS in North America, the LEC in Europe, the LCK in Korea, and the LPL in China. Riot’s leagues now feature more than 100 teams and 800 professional League of Legends players.
According to Riot’s official press release, Whalen and Jarred oversaw the last three World Championships. The 2018 League of Legends World Championship had over 99 million unique viewers during the event’s final series.
Needham is now leading the development of the World Championship, Mid-Season Invitational, and the All-Star Event.
“At Riot Games, we believe that we’re well ahead of the curve and that esports are still only in their infancy. With player experience guiding us as it does all of Riot, we are building a global, sustainable ecosystem for players, teams, partners, and fans alike. We’re honored to be considered leaders in the esports space and believe it’s part of our responsibility to help shepherd it forward by investing in the right ideas, events, and structure to help this sport reach its full potential,” Needham said.
Since 2017, Needham has been working at Riot, most recently as the managing director of Europe and North America. His work includes the revitalization of the LEC.